Imágenes de página

undue complaisance towards the Corsican and his clique. His conversation, which had always been agreeable, was now become, by the great age to which he had lived, and the extraordinary scenes which he had witnessed, remarkably interesting; and his society was therefore very much sought by the French themselves as well as by literary strangers.

In December, 1814, he was overturned in his carriage and his thigh bone was broken. Although now in his eighty-seventh year, he recovered, in some degree, from this accident; but there can be little doubt, that it contributed to hasten the termination of his life, and he died on the 12th of January, 1819, at the age of ninety-two.

It was the habit of the gay old man to celebrate his birth-days with a family fête, which he enlivened by an annual song. Some of them the editor has preserved in an appendix : without being very clever, they possess a pleasing mixture of gaiety and sentiment, with some poetical power; and one of them, written and sung at the commencement of his ninety-tirst year, is perhaps the only song ever composed by a nonagenarian author. The subject is judiciously selected-a panegyric on old age; it is written with gaiety, with elegance, we might almost say with vigour, and is certainly not inferior to the Abbé's early productions. We cannot refrain from extracting the first stanza of this literary curiosity.

• Mes amis, voyant terminée
Ma quatre-vingt-disième année,

Viennent chez moi s'en réjouir;
Ils prétendent que la vieillesse
Est un bien comme la jeunesse

le Sage en sait jouir.' His last work, and perhaps the best of his fugitive poetry, appears to have been some stanzas on the approach of blindness. We do not recollect any instance of a similar longevity of mind

; the verses have really a spirit and elegance on which the Abbé might have prided himself at twenty-five; but when we recollect that they were written at such an age, and under the sufferings of such an accident as we have recorded, though trifling in themselves, they are of some importance to the history of the human intellect.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Art. XII. - Lectures 'on the Ancient Greeks. By the late

Andrew Dalzel, A.M. F.R.S. E., Professor of Greek in the

University of Edinburgh. 2 vols. 1821. NO

O author, says a nameless bard, ought to be judged for post

humous works published by friends; and if any publication has a full claim to the benefit of this privilege, it is that before

The author has now been dead many years; the Lectures themselves were not intended for publication; they never received the writer's final corrections, and they were originally composed under circumstances which ought not merely to cover deficiencies, but which, in some points of view, convert into merits, what might otherwise be considered as failures.

' At the period during which my father filled the Greek chair in the University of Edinburgh,' says Mr. Dalzel's son and editor, there was little instruction given to the boys at many of the public schools, but the dry and repulsive communication of the Latin language. This they were forced to learn by means of severe corporal discipline; and hardly any attempt was made to lead the youthful mind to a gradual perception of the beauty of classic diction and sentiment. The boy, when released from the restraint of school, was consequently too often induced to throw aside in disgust, what was associated in his mind only with the idea of suffering. At school there was either no instruction given in the Greek at all, or the rudiments only of it were very imperfectly taught: so that the duty of a Professor of Greek was one of no small labour; he had to communicate the language from its very elements; he had to do away the repugnance acquired at school to classical study, and had to instil into the ininds of the youth, the delight, as well as the improvement to be derived from the rational contemplation and study of the ancients.'—pref. p. x.

This was surely no very attractive state of things; and the task of reforming it could not readily, we think, have been committed to more able hands than Mr. Dalzel's. Deep learning he did not possess; but he had kindness of temper, urbanity of manners, and a warin solicitude for the improvement of his pupils; while all those high and honourable feelings, which are generally found co-existent with a love of classic lore, and which Mr. Dalzel presses upon his auditors as the most valuable fruits of its cultivation, display themselves very conspicuously in every page of his writings. Of the language, which it was his more immediate duty to teach, he had evidently formed a just and accurate conception; and with a susceptible mind and an ardent relish of the beauties of ancient literature, it would have been hard if the lecturer bad not transfused into the bosoms of his auditors some portion of that delight which he evidently felt himself, and on which, as being the most agreeable feature in his performance, one or two remarks may not be misplaced.


[ocr errors]

That the stores of classic knowledge should bave peculiar charms for those whose pursuits have embraced somewhat more than the ordinary course of literature, can be a matter of no surprize : little as human nature differs in her general features, there is something indescribably delightful in gazing upon them at the fountainhead of science; and when the poet, who has made the undress of the Epic Muse so engaging, throws open the *sources of the fertilizing Nile, he offers not a more attractive image to the bodily eye, than the intellectual eye experiences in the contemplation of those early writers, whose productions have floated on the bosom of time, carrying riches and delight wherever they flow. But this is not the only advantage which, considering the pursuit of letters as an elegant enjoyment, a deep acquaintance with classic lore possesses over modern authorship. That literature, which has stood the test of so many ages, and which, under all varieties of soil and climate, customs and manners, is found to contain something satisfactory and analagous to the best feelings of the mind, seenis to have attained a sort of moral certainty in its truth and taste, which leaves no room for doubt and speculation. Hence, to the cultivators of ancient literature there appears to belong somewhat of that conscious sense of security and certainty in their enjoyments, which Adam Smithť assumes to be peculiar to the cultivators of the exact sciences, the algebraist and geometrician. Of this sober certainty of waking bliss, Mr. Dalzel has his full portion. Satisfied with his own range of intellectual pleasures, he rarely attempts to disturb those of others: with the highest admiration of ancient literature, he never shows the least disposition to depreciate modern knowledge; on the contrary, some of the most successful portions of bis labours seem to derive their success from his extensive acquaintance with the stores of modern learning, and from his ingenuity in bringing this knowledge to bear upon his illustrations of antiquity. If, in so doing, he rather overstepped the limits of his

province, it must be remembered that he had an audience, whose attention was to be gained and preserved by something more than the ordinary methods.

Into the minor defects, which accompany these solid and substantial merits, we do not feel ourselves called to inquire very minutely. Profundity or novelty is not to be expected from these Lectures; and it must be some extraordinary felicity of style, which can tempt the readers of Mitford into an analysis of Grecian bistory, or encourage those who have studied the Constitution of England in the writings of Blackstone and De Lolme, to add to their reading an essay of Mr. Dalzel on the same subject, addressed to an audience of boys. That this felicity of style is not always to be found in Mr. Dalzel, might be proved without much difficulty; and, somewhat perversely, the lecturer's manner grows most faulty as his inatter becomes most interesting. The revival of Greek learning in Italy was attended with so many curious and important accompaniments, that the ordinary attractions of composition would have made the Professor's lectures on this subject palatable even to those who had studied it in the larger treatises of Roscoe, Hodius, and Tiraboschi. But where did he learn to construct such a sentence (and we have many

* Araucana, Parte II., Canto xxvii.

+ Theory of Moral Sentiments.

addressed tory

of them) as the following ? ' About the year 1450, Gaza was invited from Ferrara to Rome, by Pope Nicholas V., to assist, in conjunction with other Greeks, at translating into Latin the works of the ancient authors.'- vol. ii. p. 402. Those who feel the charms of language as a mere vehicle of thought, experience a delight in the ancient tongues which no modern language can give, because, from their inflexion and compactness, the images rise at once to the mind, unweakened by any circumstances of juxta-position. Was it to illustrate this beauty of the Greek language, that Mr. Dalzel thus crowded into a single sentence half the particles and prepositions of his own? Again, why must he clog his sentences with unnecessary appendages, (380) mix his metaphors, (387) and congregate passive participles and preterites, (404, 5) till the eye is absolutely satiated with similarity of termination A Greek composition must have been of unusual length, in which the same metaphor would have occurred twice: but Mr. Dalzel has so laboured the most common-place trope, which an inquiry into the revival of learning could suggest, that the reader begins to be reminded by the mere mention of the meridian sun, of the young lady who, after a love-letter filled with an unusual profusion of flames, declared that, she should be ashamed to look into a fire for another fortnight.

It may further be suggested, that it would have been no detriment to these volumes, if some of the chapters in them had been less ambitiously headed. Voltaire's assurance, who analyses the entire works of Aristotle in fourteen pages, of which three have little to do with his subject, is sufficiently amusing; but a single lecture headed • Of Tastem Of CriticismAristotle-Dionysius of Halicarnassus -Horace — Longinus - Vida — Scaliger--Vossius-BoileauPope'; and the whole discussed in twenty-two pages !-Surely such a dispatch of business has never been equalled since the days of Dean Swift's curate. To all this may be added that the Professor is given to repeat himself, that he deals woefully in truisms, and that his eloquence does not always steer quite clear of the bathos. As for his discussions, such as that prefixed to his Lecture on His


tory, they can only be considered as the effusions of a grave man, who pats a little airchin on the head, bids him mind his book, and then prophesies his future elevation to the episcopal bench or the woolsack. All these defects should be removed from a second edition of the work; they add nothing to the Professor's own reputation by standing where they are, and they may lead to a suspicion that, in the opinion of the Professor's son, bis countrymen are still the same babes in classic literature which his father found them; and that the same slight nutriment will do for the present race of Scotch scholars as served their ancestors; an imputation which ought not to belong, and which we are very confident does not belong to the country of Buchanan, of John of Ayr, and that *accomplished. friend of Erasmus, who died too young for his honours as a scholar, but old enough to command bis country's tears as a patriot and a hero!

But while the quotation at the head of our pages fairly exempts us from pursuing this part of our duty, we know nothing but our own dulness which should prevent us from canvassing pretty freely some general principles advocated in these volumes, and on which Mr. Dalzel being, as we think, very slenderly informed himself, may be apt to mislead his readers. As the cold doctrines which we shall oppose to them will show to great disadvantage, when compared with the warmer and apparently more liberal opinions of Mr. Dalzel, we shall be careful not to be sparing in our quotations from original authors, that what we seem to want in feeling, we may be thought to make up in truth: a homely consolation; but which will not be without its advantage, if, by teaching us not to indulge in false notions about the governments of other countries, it instructs us to be tolerably well satisfied, upon the whole, with the institutions of our own.

When we find a writer indulging himself with romantic and extravagant notions about Grecian virtue, Grecian freedom, and Grecian liberty, (and Mr. Dalzel travels through Greece as through a sort of fairy-land, upon these points,) we always lay our account with expecting to find him more versed in the tragic than in the comic writers of that country, and more conversant with her epic, lyric, and elegiac poetry than with her orators and philosophers. And this is precisely the case with Mr. Dalzel. The merits of Homer, Sophocles, and Pindar, he discusses with taste, warmth, and feeling; and that his ardour is tempered with discretion, it will be sufficient to observe, that in comparing the merits of the Orphan and the Edipus Tyrannus, and using Franklin's translation for the purpose, he has the prudence to leave the question of su

Alexander Stuart, natural son of James IV.


« AnteriorContinuar »